Officials at the Nashville Superspeedway couldn’t have asked for better storylines headed into Saturday’s Firestone Indy 200 race.
First, adopted Nashvillian Dario Franchitti is the IndyCar Series championship leader. Franchitti, a native of Scotland who is also known for his marriage to actress Ashley Judd, lives in Williamson County and has run well at NSS, winning the Indy event in 2005. He has said he considers the speedway his home track.
Next, there is the continuing attention on the dust-up between Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr. Last week at the Watkins Glen race, Kanaan and Hornish Jr. got in a fight when the drivers got out of their cars. Hornish’s father shoved Kanaan, then was knocked down by members of Kanaan’s crew.
Kanaan’s team, Andretti Green Racing, and Hornish’s team, Team Penske, were fined $25,000 each for the altercation and were placed on probation for the rest of the year.
The two drivers say they have moved on from the incident, but the atmosphere between the two has been mighty frosty this week.
And if that wasn’t enough, there’s always the added attention glamour girl Danica Patrick brings to the track.
But in terms of impact on the season as a whole, Franchitti’s chase for the circuit championship is the focus of many. The Nashville race is the 11th race of a 17-race season.
He has been impressive over the last three weeks, winning two times and finishing third in the other.
Franchitti has taken a close championship race that had at least six drivers thinking titles and turned it into a two-man, maybe a three-man, race.
The Edinburgh, Scotland native owns a 47-point lead over Target Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon. Franchitti's Andretti Green Racing teammate Kanaan is in third place, 75 points back.
Dixon won last week's road course race at Watkins Glen, his third in a row at the upstate New York site. He has eight top-fives so far this year.
Qualifying for the race starts today with an autograph session at 7 p.m. The race starts on Saturday at 6:30 and is on ESPN.
Firestone Indy 200
Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
— Staff reports, Sports Network